United Nations human rights monitors have strongly condemned the state of Texas for its new anti-abortion law, which they say violates international law by denying women control of their own bodies and endangering their lives.
In condemning statements to the Guardian, Melissa Upreti, president of the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls, criticized the new Texas law, SB 8, as “structural discrimination of sex and gender at its worst.”
She warned that legislation, which bans abortions around six weeks, could force abortion providers into hiding and lead women to seek unsafe procedures that could prove fatal.
“This new law will make abortion unsafe and deadly, and will create a whole new set of risks for women and girls. It is deeply discriminatory and violates a number of rights guaranteed by international law, ”said the Nepalese human rights lawyer.
Upreti, one of five independent experts tasked by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva with pushing for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls around the world, also harshly criticized the US Supreme Court.
Last week, a majority of the court’s right-wing decided by five votes to four to allow the Texas law to proceed, despite blatant disregard for the provision in the court’s own 1973 ruling legalizing abortion in the USA, Roe v Wade.
“The law and the way it arose, through the refusal of the United States Supreme Court to block it based on existing legal precedent, has not only set Texas back, but, in the eyes of the international community, it has set the whole country back. ”Upreti said.
Reem Alsalem, the UN’s independent monitor on violence against women, was also scathing about the supreme court’s decision to allow Texas law to stand. The UN special rapporteur charged the five right-wing magistrates who made up the majority, which include the three appointed by Donald Trump – to expose women to possible acts of violence.
“Through this decision, the United States Supreme Court has chosen to trample on the protection of women’s reproductive rights, exposing them and abortion providers to more violence,” Alsalem told The Guardian.
Women of color, low-income women and other vulnerable groups would be the most affected by the repression, he said.
Alsalem highlighted as especially egregious the element of Texas law that makes abortions nearly impossible even for women who become pregnant due to rape and incest. “That exacerbates his trauma, as well as the physical and mental suffering.”
Chief Justice John Roberts joined three justices from the liberal wing of the Supreme Court in dissenting against the majority’s refusal to block Texas law, and all four issued strong statements.
Under SB 8, an estimated 7 million Texan women are at risk of losing access to legal abortions. The health clinics that offer the service have already begun to drive away patients.
SB 8 prohibits all abortions after initial cardiac activity can be detected in the fetus, usually around six weeks of pregnancy. Legislation to ban abortion this early is often evocative but misleading called heartbeat bills, even though at that stage the heart has not yet formed.
The cut-off is so early that many women would not even realize they are pregnant, and up to 90% of all outages in the state are expected to be blocked.
Roe v Wade paved the way for legal abortion up to the stage where a fetus can survive outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Another controversial aspect of the new Texas law is that it transfers responsibility for enforcing the new rules from state officials to ordinary citizens who are encouraged to sue anyone who “Helps” or “accomplices” an abortion, with rewards of $ 10,000 and her legal fees paid if the lawsuit is successful.
Under international law, governments can regulate voluntary terminations of pregnancy. But they are not allowed to do so in a way that endangers the lives of women, subjects them to physical or mental pain or suffering, discriminates against them, or arbitrarily interferes with their privacy.
Human rights bodies They have long recognized that denying women access to abortion by criminalizing the practice or erecting other obstacles can, in certain circumstances, constitute cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment. Abortion bans have even been compared by international bodies to a form of torture.
In 2015, the UN Task Force on Discrimination Against Women undertook an official visit to the United States to investigate the position and treatment of women in American society.
In its final report, human rights experts lamented that American women “have seen their rights to sexual and reproductive health significantly eroded … Increasing barriers are being created to prevent their access to abortion procedures.”
Upreti told The Guardian that since that visit, the situation in the United States had deteriorated further.
“We notified the US administration that the imposition of new barriers to access to abortion services constitutes discrimination under international law, but the setback has continued,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism